Private Reconstructions of Past Collective Experiences: Technologies of Remembering-Forgetting

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Wolf Vostell's 1966 score Yellow Pages or An Action Page presents the performer with a page from the New York Yellow Pages and suggests that they take this page as an instruction plan and during one month buy the quantities of groceries indicated in the lebensmittelkarte [ration card] at the designated grocers only. It also suggests that they subsist that month with the indicated comestibles only. Offering an auto-ethnographic account of my 2013 performance of the score, this article queries the notion of performance as a sustained act of commemoration, and, thus, implicitly, atonement and forgetting. Laying aside potential considerations of guilt and/or victimisation inherent in the spatio-temporal superimposition of a World War II modality of existence on an affluent, and, by comparison, peaceful part of the world, my investigation focuses on three mutually related areas of performance: the body's hidden somaticity, the co-becoming of the self and time; and walking as a mnemonic mechanism. Aided by the Japanese philosophers' Shigenori Nagatomo's concept of the hidden body and Kitaro Nishida's theorisation of the relationship between the temporalised and the atemporal, the actual and the virtual, the spatial and the non-spatial as the continuity of discontinuity (in which continuous time, space, and memory are both determined by discontinuity and are located in discontinuity), I argue against the idea of performance as a cumulative, sedimentary and implicitly restorative poiesispraxis. Instead, I seek to articulate the ways in which the actional, interoceptive and psychogeographic schemes generated by eating and walking intertwine to create complex patterns of individual-collective remembering-forgetting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-134
Number of pages30
JournalEnvironment, Space, Place
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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